– Did you shoot many men?
Anastasia was white in the face.
– It was front-page news in all the big newspapers. But you’re … a Belarusian, aren’t you? Anyway, they killed my wife and child. I completely lost it. I lost my job in NCIS, but they didn’t find me guilty of murder. The perps had weapons and were preparing the biggest shipment of cocaine in Norwegian history. But obviously, I should have called for backup. Fortunately, I got a job as a reporter afterward.
– You did the right thing, said Petter. Without you, maybe we’d experience a generation of young adult Norwegians growing up to become cocaine addicts.
– Thanks, said Kurt and flashed an apologetic smile.
– Thank you, Kurt, for the gripping story. Now, my friends. While we wait for the food we will be served, I want to show you the reason for inviting you here tonight, John remarked.
He pressed a button under the table. Slowly but surely, a video screen slid down from the restaurant’s ceiling next to them.
When it was completely down, John turned himself and his chair towards the screen and picked up his cellular phone, a Samsung Galaxy Beam I8530.
– Kurt and Rebecca, please turn. You don’t want to miss this!
Both turned around as John put the mobile on the tabletop and started an embedded projector.
– What’s that?
On the screen, a room in a salt color palette appeared.
– This, my friends, is a fire, bullet and bomb safe storage room in the house. Right now it contains only two things: the paintings I just appropriated, Autumn in Bavaria and Several Circles.
John pressed on the screen of his mobile phone and Kurt noticed that when he did it, the camera in the room began moving. Soon it had zoomed in on a painting that represented something that looked like an alley surrounded by trees. The alley led to something that looked like a church spire far away.
– My God exclaimed Petter. How much did you give for this again?
– About 206 million. But you already know that …
– Still, cannot believe that you got Autumn in Bavaria so cheap …
Kurt turned to Petter.
– Don’t you read newspapers? Aftenbladet just wrote a story about how the selling price was at a record high.
– Quite unflattering, that portrayal …
– I could have paid twice that amount if I wasn’t busy that weekend.
– There, there, said Anastasia and patted Petter on his back. You can do it next time.
Just then Hugo Friis came out of the restaurant building beside them with two deep plates.
– The first dish, he announced. Northern Norwegian fish soup!
All eyes around the table turned to him as he placed the plates in front of Kurt and John.
– Bon appétit, he said.
– Is that fish soup, asked Rebecca.
– Yes, it is, said Kurt.
– Looks tasty, said Rebecca.
When everyone had eaten chowder, John once again turned and directed everyone’s attention to the screen.
– As you should know, I also purchased another painting, Several Circles.
Again he pressed on the mobile phone, and soon a new painting had emerged on the display.
– It’s gorgeous!
The painting consisted of several circles of different sizes on a matte background.
– It is even more beautiful in reality, replied John. It reminds me of space.
– Didn’t Kandinsky say that it was his favorite painting, Anastasia marveled.
– That’s right, dear. He never managed to surpass it later in life, he said.
– So, said Karl Homme and gazed at John with a sly smile. A bird told me that you had purchased Casa de Aliaga from the Aliaga family and live there now?
John sent Karl Homme a look of astonishment.
– How did you know?
– I have my sources. It’s pretty sad for Lima’s many tourists, but all the better for me.
– I planned to dedicate a chapter in my new book to it. Now my book will become even more popular. Because I may come to visit, John?
John sighed but smiled wryly.
– Of course, you may.
– Many thanks! For those of you who do not know, Casa de Aliaga is the former house of the General Jerónimo Aliaga. It was bestowed upon him by Fransisco Pizarro himself, so that they could be neighbors. Aliaga was Pizarro’s most trusted general. He was involved in the execution of Atahualpa, the last Aztec king. Is the sword still in the house, John?
– Nothing escapes you, does it? The sword was one of the treasures that the family, unfortunately, insisted on retaining. Which is understandable, given that it is over four hundred years old.
– Should we go to the top of the pyramids? John wiped his face with a napkin.
– Sounds like a good idea, said Kurt and put down his spoon.
Tiramisu was the best desert Kurt knew about. But right now he was so full after two portions of Ceviche that there was a half eaten Tiramisu left on his plate.
– Agreed, said Karl Homme. Let’s go, he declared, standing up immediately from his chair.
– I’m old and tired, and can’t bear to go there. But I can certainly join around the rest of the site, declared Rebecca.
– That’s fine; I can pick you up later.
– How fascinating, said Anastasia. Is it possible to view the whole city from here?
– Well, parts of it, in any case, said John.
Kurt took up a cigarette from his breast pocket and lit it before he got up from his chair and joined the little train of people which was moving towards the pyramids, led by John Fredly.
– How long did it take to build these, asked Kurt as they were halfway up the biggest pyramid.
– No one knows, responded John.
– They sacrificed young women and babies to their God of the seas, said John. He pointed to some skyscrapers on the horizon.
As John had arrived at the top of the pyramid, Anastasia started to scream.
– What’s up, asked Kurt. He still had a few meters left to go before he reached the top. Watch out, screamed Petter as John came falling towards Kurt in at a furious pace with his back first.
He held his hands to his throat and landed in the arms of Kurt with such speed that Kurt almost toppled from the impact. Kurt laid down John Fredly and stood over him with a worried expression on his face as Petter’s and Karl’s faces emerged from the top of the pyramid.
– Are you all right down there, Petter and Karl shouted to him.
– He’s shot in the chest, said Kurt. He was dead when he landed in my arms.
A few hours later, Kurt Hammer found himself in a dark glass building in General Vidal Street number 250. More specifically, in a whitewashed interrogation room. Two young police officers with black caps pulled well down on their foreheads sat across a small table with a microphone in front of them.
Because Kurt didn’t know much more than tourist-Spanish, the local police station had spent almost an hour finding an officer who knew more than primary school English.
Eventually, they found one that looked as if she’d barely finished the Police Academy.
Now she stood in a corner and simultaneously translated the ongoing conversation. She looked at them with weary, slightly triangular Peruvian eyes.
– … what makes you believe he is shot, Mr. Hammer?
– The fact that he has a bullet hole through his chest?
– … So why was he dead when he landed in your arms?
– Figuring that out is not my job. But he held his arms to his throat when he hit me.
– Well, señor Hammer. That’s all for now. You may go, but until you are checked out of the case you may not leave the country.
– Wasn’t planning on it.
– Senorita Lopez can follow you out.
Kurt stood up. He took out a cigarette from his breast pocket and put it in his mouth before going to the young lady in the corner.
– Excuse me, but this is a non-smoking area, señor Hammer.
Kurt just nodded and walked out of the door. Behind him, he could hear a resigned sigh as the young lady closed the door.
When Kurt was standing on the street, he looked at his watch as a black cab with a yellow and black checker pattern on the side stopped to pick him up. The time had crawled to two AM.
As Kurt entered the whitewashed reception of his hostel, a sleepy French man with dreads sitting behind the counter greeted him.
– Kurt! Where have you been? Not on the wagon again, are you?
– At the police station.
The French man had presented himself to Kurt, when he arrived, as Jean-Luc. Now he rolled his eyes.
– Haha, very funny.
Kurt was too tired to explain further, so he left the lobby, heading for his room.
When he had locked himself in the red room, he sat down on the edge of the double bed and began to undress. He put his light blue Hawaii shirt and jeans in a neat pile on the floor beside the bed.
Finally, Kurt put his head on the pillow. He knew that he was not going to be able to sleep.